There’s a Moose in My Hot Spring!

You never know what you’re going to get when you go into the high Rockies. After a seven hour bushwhack through the most beautifully flowered mountains I’ve ever seen, we made it to Conundrum Hot Springs. I love hot springs and the bubbling hot spring felt amazing on my tired bones and body. After dinner, we were ready to get into the spring until the stars came out when a bull moose walked right into one of the three hot spring pools.

The bull moose was in the upper hot spring pool that was far enough away from us that we felt safe. Then he came closer.

Everyone in camp stopped to watch the moose. His legs were amazingly long and he waded into and drank from the hot spring pool. The upper pool was about 50 yards from the hottest, main pool where we were. We gawked at the huge beast and calmly took pictures from afar. After soaking his ankles for a good ten minutes, the bull walked right into a seemingly impenetrable patch of willows. The tall moose had no problem plowing through the dense vegetation and eating any willows that got in his way.

He’s got a mouthful of willow leaves here.

We made dinner in a clump of trees near the hot spring because our camp was almost a mile downstream. The moose continued eating in the willows and worked his way right into our picnic area where I took this picture.

He stared me down, but I felt pretty safe because I knew I could run around the trees faster than he could.

He eventually came out of the willows while happily chowing some leaves. Then he walked toward the main hot spring and out into the open. My friend Frank in the red jacket was initially behind me, but then the moose walked around us so that Frank was in between me and the moose. I took some video while Frank chewed gum and stared him down. The moose just kept meandering and got many warm drinks from the hot creek that flowed out of the pools.

This bull was a little close, but Frank kept his cool and had an escape plan. We thought the bull was a little more than a year old but it could have been two. His horns should start growing beyond the stubs in the next year or two. This is a Shiras’ Moose that were reintroduced to Colorado in 1978. They’re the smallest species of moose and have done well and about 1,000 live in Colorado now.

The moose had our full attention, but I felt relaxed enough to sit down and continue taking video. After 30 minutes, I started to get a little bored watching him nibble on grass and lick the mineral-encrusted rocks near the hot pools. I started doing time-lapse videos to speed his ramblings up. The problem was that he was starting to eat into our soaking time. We wanted to get in the tub, but we didn’t want to startle the moose either.

Dean was the first to break down and sneak into the main pool. Dean got into the hot pool and was looking right up at the bull. Dean was soaking a good ten minutes before Frank and Dean’s wife Amy joined him in the pool. They got in a good soak before the moose finally wandered back up the trail and right in front of the three soakers. I made this two-minute video of the whole experience.

Here’s the moose as he’s walking by the three soakers. Dean is on the left and his wife Amy is looking to the left between the moose’s legs. You can see Frank’s tan hat in front of the moose’s front legs.

The moose came back the next morning and got another soak. He seems to like the soothing waters as much as I did!

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Logistics – if you want to know more.

This trip started for me when I reached out to my ultimate buddy Frank. Frank and I played on the Cal Poly Ultimate team and we reconnected when I ran the Cal Poly Alumni Association in Denver. I told Frank how I had a couple of weekends in August open for a backpacking trip. We tried to recruit some old ultimate buddies, but that failed. Then he reached out to his canyoneering friend Dean and he said we could join his party of four on this backpacking trip to Conundrum Hot Springs.

We didn’t have a permit at the very popular hot spring at first, but Frank ran across one in his office and Dean persisted and got one on the website. So we had, and needed, two campsites for the six of us because the sites turned out to be pretty small.

We met on a Friday at Dean and Amy’s house in Crested Butte. They had beds and bikes for each of us and we hit it off well. CB is a lovely ski/mountain biking town that I immediately fell in love with. Check out all the bikes in CB!

Crested Butte is full of bikes and has a great downtown. Budweiser painted the town blue for an advertisement and then painted it whatever color people wanted after that. They went for colorful.

We had a lovely dinner in downtown Crested Butte, got a good sleep and packed up the next morning. We had a long, late breakfast and then we shuttled Dean’s truck to Gothic where we would hike out. All six of us got in Amy’s truck and we drove to the Teocalli mountain bike trailhead. The road was a wreck of a 4WD road, but we made it to the trailhead around 1pm.

The six of us were a tight fit in the 4Runner, but Cameron sat on Rick’s lap on the bumpy 4WD road. From right to left, Scott, Cameron, Rick, Frank, Amy and Dean.

I like to hike in the afternoon and evening, so I was glad for the late start. We had trail for the first mile, but it faded to what Dean called a social trail. Most of the time it was a bushwhack up and through the flowery fields. It was usually easy going, but we’d run into a ravine like this several times.

We bushwhacked through this little gorge on the way up to Coffeepot Pass.

Without a trail, I had to watch each step and it took five hours to go four miles and up 1,400′ to get to a high camp above treeline at about 11,600′. We stayed up until the stars came out and the Milky Way swirled in the dark sky. The next morning we left camp about 9am and had to hike another 1,100′ up to Coffeepot Pass. The story is that some miner left his coffee pot up there and people are still searching for it.

Coffeepot Pass was pretty easy until we ran into some snow on the north side of the pass. Dean led us through a pretty loose talus field and across a little snowfield to get down the other side. The snow would have been a problem if we had gone even a few weeks earlier. The pass was probably snowed in for most of July. We went cross country without trail for another half a mile before catching the trail from Triangle Pass. From there, it was smooth hiking on the trail for another hour to the hot springs. Altogether, it took about seven hours of bushwhacking and an hour on the trail to get to Conundrum from the south. People usually hike to Conundrum via an 8-mile hike from the Aspen side of the mountain.

We were soon soaking in the hot spring and I slept well after the tough hikes on the first two days.

Here’s a view from the spring. Imagine seeing the moose from his knees up and looking down at this hot spring.

To get back to Crested Butte, we hiked over Triangle Pass that peaks out at 13,000′. We had to climb about 1,750′ with lighter packs after eating most of our food. Frank and I started at 10am while Dean, Amy Cameron and Rick started at 11. Frank and I took a casual walk and relaxed in the flower-filled meadows while waiting for them to catch up. It was another gorgeous day.

I think these are blue bells in full bloom.

Once they caught up, I had to pick up my pace. The winds picked up and we were rather exposed high above tree line on the thin, little goat trail that is rated a double black diamond because of the steep mountainsides that we hiked on. Everyone was strong hikers and we worked our way through some massive rubble fields and down a long hill. We got to the trailhead near Gothic after a seven hour hike that was mostly downhill. We got in the truck and went back to CB for pizza, beer and margaritas. Food and drink never tastes so good as after a great backpack!

After another night in CB and a good breakfast, Frank and I headed back to Salida. Dean had orchestrated a superbly executed trip with no drama and maximum fun! Dean and Amy liked it so much that they are doing it again this weekend!

Here are some other pics from the hike. The flowers were in full bloom in late August. Spring was still in the air up there, but it will soon start snowing. It’s a tough, but amazing life they live up there above tree-line.

Amy photobombed Frank and I in front of the voluminous lupine on the first day.
Cameron and Rick are newlyweds from Salt Lake City. They love canyoneering with Dean and Amy. Two fourteeners are directly behind them – Castle Peak at 14,265′ and Conundrum Peak at 14,022.
Dean was an excellent guide and told us all about the mountains and peaks around. Rick and him are pointing at some ridges on the way down from Coffeepot Pass that’s about 12,700′ high.
Here are some flowers in front of Dean and Amy’s garage in CB. The purple plant is lupine and you can see several poppies and a yellow lily in the background.
Dean is tending his prolific flower basket. I sat in that red chair quite a bit and enjoyed their garden and hot tub.

Youth Voting in Battleground States

Check out the data in Table 1 on the youth vote in battleground states in 20161. The average voter turnout for 18-24 year olds was a dismal 43%.  Almost two million youth from 18-34 years old didn’t vote in the close election.  As discussed in a previous blog, the Democrats should have gained about 22 votes for every 100 new youth votes. The youth vote could have easily swung these swing states if they voted.

Table 1: Youth Vote Turnout in 2016

State 18-24 Year Old
Voter Turnout
Total Voter
18-34 Year Olds
That Didn’t Vote
Michigan 37.8% 64.3% 1,104,000
Wisconsin 47.1 % 70.5% 589,000
Pennsylvania 51.4% 62.6% 1,237,000
Florida 37.3% 59.9% 1,974,000
Arizona 40.2% 60.4% 743,000
US Total 43.0% 61.4% 15,353,000

Only 43% of youth from 18-24 voted in 2016.  Over fifteen million youth didn’t vote and Hillary still got almost 3 million more votes than Trump.

If a Get out the Vote effort got 20% more youth to vote, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would have swung Democratic. Hillary would have won the Electoral College by 278-260.  Getting 20% of the youth to vote could be a challenge, but little differences add up in a close race.

Table 2: Results With 20% More Youth Vote

State 20% of 18-34
Democratic Votes
Clinton Lost By
Michigan 220,800 48,000 10,704
Wisconsin 117,800 25,900 22,748
Pennsylvania 247,400 54,000 44,292
Florida 394,800 87,000 112,911
Arizona 148,600 32,000 91,234
US 3,070,000 1,465,000 -2,868,519

This table shows that if 20% more of the youth would have voted in 2016, then Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would have flipped to Clinton.

In 2020, there will be 19 million more Gen Z voters than in 20162.  Gen Z eligible voters are more liberal than older generations and 45% non-white4. Gen Z will outnumber everyone born before the Baby Boomers as shown in Figure 2.  The problem is that youth are under-voters.  Under-voters are groups of people that vote less than their peers.  Older voters are over-voters because they outvote their peers.  Figure 1 shows how they youth vote have under-voted over the decades. 

Figure 1: Under And Over-Voting by Age

This figure shows how the youth usually under-vote by about 5% while elderly voters over-vote by 3-4%.  The difference decreased in 2016.

In 2016, the youth vote of 18-24 year olds made up 12% of the voting population, but they only voted like they were 8.4%.  That means they under-voted by 3.6% and that’s a lot in close elections.  Figure 1 used different age ranges and got different results than what were available from the Census Bureau. It’s a shame that the youth vote doesn’t turn out when they have the most to win or lose from government policies over their lifetimes.

Table 3: Under-voting in the 2016 Election (Populations in thousands)

Age Range Total Citizen
% of
% Who
Total 224,059 137,537
18 to 24 26,913 11,560 12.0% 8.4% 3.6%
25 to 34 38,283 20,332 17.1% 14.8% 2.3%
35 to 44 34,327 20,662 15.3% 15.0% 0.3%
45 to 64 77,544 51,668 34.6% 37.6% -3.0%
65+ 46,993 33,314 21.0% 24.2% -3.2%

This table shows how youth under-vote by about 3% while the elderly over-vote by about 3%.

If the youth would vote, they would be better represented in government.  It’s that simple and they need to get the message.  The hard part is getting them the message and voting!  That will be a topic in a later blog.

Figure 2: 2020 Electorate

This figure shows how the elderly generations are declining while the younger generations are gaining potential voters from coming of age and immigration3.

Figure 3: Generations Defined

This Pew graphic shows how the generations are defined.  The term Post-Millennial is now replaced by Gen Z.

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Gen Z Voters Will Change the 2020 Election

Every year, over four million US citizens turn eighteen and gain the right to vote. These new Gen Z voters were born after 1996 and will amount to over 24 million possible voters or 10% of the electorate in 20201. With young people voting Democratic by wide margins, they could easily swing the election if they vote and are targeted. The Democratic Party and political action committees (PACs) should target these young voters to win the 2020 election.

Millennial and Gen Z generations will be from 18-39 years old in 2020 and these young voters typically vote the least of any generation. Even though their future will be influenced the most by government policies over their lifetimes, their voter turnout in the 2016 election was only 51%2. The 2018 midterm elections show that these young voters are considerably interested in voting and their voter turnout reached the highest levels in over two decades as seen in Figure 1. If Gen Z would vote at the rate of Boomers, the 2020 election could easily be shifted towards the Democratic party.

Figure 1. Over the last twenty years, young voters have barely turned out in mid-term elections. In 2018, all age groups showed their highest level of interest in two decades, yet not even one third voted. This chart clearly shows how older voters vote at higher levels than the young.

In 2016, Millennials, or Generation Y, voted on the national average of 55% Democratic and 33% Republican2. For each one hundred new, young voters, 22 additional democratic votes will be counted if this trend holds. Nineteen million additional Gen Z voters will be eligible to vote in 2020 since five million Gen Zers were already eligible for the 2016 election.  If Gen Z voted in a similar pattern to Millennials in 2016, there would be an additional 2.1 million votes for Democrats (19 M additional Gen Z voters * 51% turnout rate *22 Democratic Votes over Republicans per 100 voters). These 2.1 million more Democratic votes have a huge impact on already tight elections.

Figure 2. Only 51% of Millennials voted in the 2016 election and Pew Research didn’t offer a turnout rate for Gen Z in 2016.
Figure 3. Less than a third of Gen Z voters turned out in the 2018 midterm elections, but that is historically high for young voters in recent midterms.

An interesting analysis shows how an additional 2.7 million Democratic votes would have influenced the 2016 election.  Trump won the 2016 election by 77,744 votes by flipping the rust belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  If these 2.7 million new Democratic votes were spread evenly across the US based on population, then the results would be much different. If these hypothetical Gen Z voters turning out at 51% and yielded 22 more Democratic votes per one hundred, they would have easily flipped these three states and Florida! 

Table 1: Additional Gen Z Voters Swing the Election in Four States

State Votes Trump Won By Additional Gen Z Democratic Votes
Michigan -16 10,704 67,480
Wisconsin – 10 22,748 38,967
Pennsylvania – 20 44,292 113,307
Florida – 29 112,911 132,776

Table 1 shows how four more years of Gen Z voters could have swung the election in favor of Hillary Clinton if national averages applied to these states. Hillary would have won the election 307-231 in the Electoral College.

This flip in the 2016 election due to new Gen Z voters is based a few assumptions and here are some comments about how the 2020 election might pan out:

  1. 51% of the new Gen Z voters vote – I’m pretty optimistic that this assumption will be surpassed in 2020 because Trump is so dividing that he motivates people to vote.
  2. 55 out of every 100 new voter vote Democratic and 33 vote Republican – This is much more up in the air and problematic to determine.  With 45% of Gen Z being of color, the demographics favors the Democrats.  If the Democrats play to the younger crowd, then they have a better chance.
  3. Battleground states vote like the nation did in 2016 – Of course this is a major leap and I’ll look into this in more detail in a later blog. 
  4. Nothing else changes – Of course many things will change in the 2020 election.  From the Democratic candidate to trade wars, many things will change in 2020 and I’ll look at these individually as they come up.

To conclude, Gen Z voters will add 19 million new voters and make up 10% of the electorate in 2020. While Boomers and older generations decline,  Gen X and Millennials  will grow by about 2.5 million voters or 1% of the electorate from immigrants naturalizing and getting the right to vote3. These demographic shifts favor the Democrats and these younger X, Y and Z generations are now the majority of voters and should be targeted.  Most older voters are already set in their ways. The future belongs to the young and those who court them.

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